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JAMES ADAMS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

JANUARY 25, 1989

JAMES ADAMS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This appeal of an armed robbery conviction finds a deputy circuit clerk acting in fundamental disregard of our law regarding eligibility for jury service. Indeed, the clerk took it upon himself to purge from the list of jurors drawn for appellant's trial a substantial number of persons wholly eligible in law to serve. That such persons may have enjoyed a personal privilege to be free to jury duty if they wished to claim it does not give the clerk authority to act unilaterally and ex cathedra to exclude them.

 We reverse and remand.

 II.

 On November 18, 1981, John Henry Mulvihill answered a knock on his door and was robbed by a gun-wielding assailant. Repeated attempts by the authorities to locate the major suspect in the case, James Adams, proved fruitless. Nearly four years later, in August of 1985, the sheriff obtained a photograph of Adams, and Mulvihill identified this photograph as that of the man who robbed him.

 On December 10, 1985, James Adams was indicted by a Carroll County Grand Jury on a charge of armed robbery. After being extradited from the state of New Jersey, Adams was tried on January 22, 1987. The jury returned a verdict of guilty and Adams was sentenced to serve a term of ten (10) years imprisonment.

 Adams now appeals his conviction and sentence.

 III.

 Our outcome determinative question concerns the actions of the Deputy Circuit Clerk in striking persons from the jury venire, first, without obtaining authority of the court and, second, without notifying these individuals that their names had been drawn for jury duty or requiring that these persons claim their statutory privilege to be exempt from jury service. Our focus is upon prospective jurors over sixty-five years of age and those who may have served similarly within the preceding two years. Miss. Code Ann. 13-5-25 (Supp. 1988).

 Prior to trial, Adams filed a Motion to Strike Jury Venire. In the motion he recited that, by order dated January 12, 1987, the Circuit Court had directed that seventy names be drawn from the jury box. In fact, ninety-one names were drawn, but prior to the delivery of a jury summons list to the office of the Sheriff of Carroll County, the Deputy Circuit Clerk handling jury selection duties unilaterally struck twenty-nine names. The Court overruled this motion to strike.

 The point was renewed on Adams' post-trial motion for a new trial. At that time, Ralph Self, acting in his capacity as Deputy Circuit Clerk of Carroll County, *fn1 described the way the original jury list of ninety-one persons was handled. Self's testimony, in relevant part, was as follows:

 Q. Now, at this point, with the Judge's permission, I would like to show you a copy of the summons list in James Adams' case that is contained in the file of this cause. Do you recognize that

 list?

 A. Yes, ...


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